MORGAN'S POINT (February 9, 2013)--Jack Pierce has been eagerly awaiting his homecoming. After suffering traumatic injuries from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Pierce is now ready to start a new life, in a new home provided mortgage free.
Saturday morning, Fort Hood soldiers and the community gathered to welcome Pierce to his new house on Key Wish Drive in Morgan's Point. Large American flags flapped in the wind as a small parade of soldiers, motorcycle riders and fire trucks escorted Pierce, his wife Karen and son Warren, down the last stretch of road.
Due to Pierce's injuries, he was eligible for a home paid for by a national organization called Homes for our Troops. Pierce, a former Marine Staff Sergeant, served twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan during hit sixteen years in the service. Three months into his deployment to Afghanistan, disaster struck. "A 300-pound bomb hit my truck as we rolled over it," said Pierce. "There was eight of us total in the truck and six of us made it out with pretty severe injuries." Piece and his battle buddies were thrown 30-feet from the blast.
The injuries left Pierce paralyzed from the waist down. While recovering in a veterans hospital, Pierce received a disability rating that made him eligible for a $63,000 grant. This money was to be used to modify an existing home or construct a home to meet his needs. "It cost around $30,000 just to modify a bathroom, so I knew the funds would not be enough." said Pierce. So, he did some searching on the web and found Homes for Our Troops.
He went through the application procedures and was approved. The organization brought him to Taunton, Massachusetts, where he went through two-and-a-half days of seminars on home ownership. "We give them a free home here and then they have to maintain it," said Tim McHale, president Homes for our Troops. "Next they choose where they want to live and our land acquisition specialists start discussions with state, city and local municipalities to find land that will accommodate a house."
Homes for our Troops has built 124 homes in the past nine years. According to McHale, they plan to build 40 more in 2013. "It's a great feeling that we can serve our veterans who have sacrificed so much for us."
The two and three bedroom homes average $400,000, but donations the organization receives lessens the cost for them. The living space is 2,600 square feet, but increases to 3,000 square feet with the garage. Pierce's home marked the seventeenth home built in Texas. The house has 155 adaptive features including automatic doors, eye level appliances and light switches, large doorways and special features in the kitchen and bathrooms. "We are trying to give back to these veterans who have sacrificed so much," said McHale. "This provides them independence and freedom to operate in a daily life and get to raise their family in a specially adapted home."
The front yard of Pierce's home was lined with signs of all the sponsors who donated labor, building materials and even free lunches that were served to hungry workers. There were three days called the "build brigade" where soldiers from Fort Hood came and helped with landscaping and more. The home took about a year to build and Pierce said they stayed with family. "We would get in the car sometimes and drive up to eight hours to come see how the house was coming along." said Pierce. "We were chomping at the bit to get into this house."
Pierce says he is very grateful for all the hard work and sweat put into the home and wants to "pay it forward." It has been his mission to travel to San Antonio to visit wounded veterans and let them know there is still life after tragedy. "Just because your in a wheelchair now, doesn't mean that life is over. There is an organization out there that will help to get you into a home that adaptable to them," said Pierce. He also spoke about the troops still in harms way. "We still have a lot of wounded service members coming home from Afghanistan." The war isn't over yet and we need to make sure they are taken care of."
To find out more about Home for our Troops, visit their website at: www.homesforourtroops.org